The Cutty Sark is the last surviving British tea clipper and can still be seen in dry dock in Greenwich, more that 130 years after her launch. The Cutty Sark was launched on Monday, 22 November 1869 at Dumbarton on the Clyde. She was built for John 'Jock' Willis, a sailing shipmaster and fleet owner in London. He wanted his new vessel to be the fastest tea clipper in the annual race to transport tea from China, and directly to challenge the famous clipper, Thermopylae.
The ship was designed and built by the Scottish firm of Scott & Linton. However, financial difficulties resulted in the project being transferred to William Denny & Brothers, who completed the Cutty Sark in November 1869.
Unfortunately the new Suez Canal saw steamships quickly take over the tea trade from the slower clipper ships. The Cutty Sark had completed eight passages from China to England between 1870 and 1877. In 1885, the Cutty Sark began the second stage of her career, in the wool trade from Australia. This is when the vessel entered her heyday, repeatedly making the fastest passages to Britain from Australia. She made twelve wool passages between 1883 and 1895.
In 1895, the Cutty Sark was sold to Portuguese owners and renamed the Ferreira. She sailed the waters between Portugal, America and South America, until she was sold in 1922. Captain Wilfred Downman bought the rather sorry looking ship after seeing her at Falmouth, and restored her to her previous glory as a clipper ship.
In 1922, she underwent a refit at Surrey Docks in London. It was on her journey home, whilst anchored in Falmouth Harbour, that she was purchased by Captain Downman.
Upon Captain Downman's death in 1938, the Cutty Sark was presented to the Thames Nautical Training College for use as a training ship. She was towed down the Thames to Greenhithe, where she remained for eleven years.
In 1954, the Council of the City of London sponsored a scheme to preserve the Cutty Sark. She entered a specially constructed dry dock at Greenwich and was finally opened to the public as a museum ship in 1957.